A 36 Mile, 1919 Calorie Cycling Challenge

I went biking today with a group from the Bicycle Club of Philadelphia. I've been riding steadily for the the past several months, while going at a slower pace during the winter. I had myself convinced I'm ready to be classified as an advanced beginner; A "C Class" rider in the bike club parlance. I set out this morning anticipating a meandering and fun ride through Fairmount park, riding some fast paced miles that would quicken my pulse and push my muscles. I couldn't have been more wrong about my abilities and my place in the bicycle pack. The ride I got today was such an eye-opening, muscle aching and heart-pumping work out that I'm surprised I have any strength left in my fingertips to even type this!

The bike club leader and riders decided to head out to Ardmore which is about 15-16 miles out from the Art Museum starting point; about 35 round trip. I gamely said I was up for it, thinking I've done 35 to 40 miles before. What I neglected to realize was that my 35-40 miles rides have been like a child's tricycle ride in the driveway compared to Lance Armstrong's 7th Tour de France 3rd Day Sprint wearing the Yellow Jersey ride. Okay, maybe this ride wasn't that intense, but it sure felt that way to me trying to go up Chamounix Street Hill past the Strawberry Mansion Bridge in beautiful Fairmount Park. Luckily the BCP leaders and riders are so nice and friendly; one of the guys always lagged behind with me, matching my snail's pace of 5 miles an hour uphill, urging me on while dispensing advice on how to best switch into the lower gears to twiddle up the hills. Tim, Sam, Chuck and Tom, 4 true gentlemen and experienced riders all took turns sharing encouragements and telling me when the next "rewarding" decent was about to approach. I could not have made this trip without the whole pack trailing along with me or waiting for me at the next major turn in the road.

We made it out to Ardmore, winding through Wynnefield and Bala, pedaling through Philadelphia, Montgomery and Delaware Counties. When we arrived in Ardmore, we stopped at the McDonald's for a rest and refreshment break. With strong will-power and memories of bad meals, I resisted the urge to go into Mickey D's and opted instead for a cuppa Joe from Dunkin Donuts. Hey, if American can run on Dunkin' then I can pedal on it too. Plus, I had a pack of smart fuel food - a sandwich on light whole grain bread, banana, apple, Nutrigrain Bars, and lots of water.

After resting about 1/2 an hour, we turned around and headed back towards the city, riding through Haverford and Ardmore, and then back through the beautiful suburban stone and gated communities and houses of Wynnefield, Wynnewood, and Lower Merrion. I was pedaling so hard, trying to take the small baby hills that seemed to just keep coming at me, I couldn't quite take in all the beauty of the neighborhoods, let alone have the chutzpah to stop and take any photos. I think the guys would have abandoned me along Lancaster Avenue if I pulled out my camera. There's always another time and place for taking photos and the memories both in my mind's eye and sore muscles will be with me for a long time to come!

After we crossed back into the City Limits,one of the guys said we'd be heading through Mannayunk. It wasn't until we crossed over the bridge that traverses 676 did I realize we were really riding through Mannayunk. Back on familiar biking territory felt easy to me - less muscle killing hills along Main Street. Somehow though I was still the last in the pack all the way up Main Street and then along Kelly Drive and West River Drive. Crossing East Falls Bridge was a new experience for me. I rode across it last weekend, but not after having ridden 30 miles with a my calves and thigh muscles having lactic-acid muscle spasms. Once I could cruise down West River Drive and keep up a 13 mile pace without feeling like my lungs were collapsing, I knew I had made a major accomplishment.

Back in the City - I had to walk up Locust Street from 25th to Rittenhouse Square. I was just too spent to take on any more inclines. I strolled through Rittenhouse and saw a bunch of people I know from the Synagogue; taking photo opportunities along the way of old buildings, signage, and a precious little long haired Chihuahua named Princess. The whole day was such a glorious rush. I learned a lot about my abilities and lack of therein, but I also realized where I want to go physically and quite possible how I may get there. It's not a marathon, I didn't set out on a bike race today. Match, pace, lead, eventually I'll get to my next stop.


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